Amnesty: Originals treated appallingly - UN council useless

Australia violates indigenous rights

AAP SBS News 24the May 2012

The Amnesty organisation slammed the proposed Stronger Futures legislation as 'bad policy' that would stigmatise indigenous Australians.

Human rights group Amnesty International says Australia is still treating Aboriginal people in an 'appalling manner'.

"Australia continued to violate rights of Indigenous People," Amnesty International said in its annual report on global human rights in 2011.

The group criticised the government for limiting funding for housing and services like water and sanitation for Aboriginal people living in traditional homelands in the Northern Territory.

Amnesty International national director Claire Mallinson said Amnesty had been told some indigenous people in the Northern Territory were living without toilets, showers, electricity or garbage collection.

"People need to realise the first peoples of Australia are being treated in an appalling manner," she told reporters at a briefing of the 400-page report in Sydney.

She said while Amnesty International welcomed the federal and Northern Territory governments' commitment of $21 million over 10 years for basic services to homelands communities, it wasn't enough.

The organisation also slammed the proposed Stronger Futures legislation as "bad policy" that would stigmatise indigenous Australians.

The laws, which would continue the NT intervention in remote indigenous communities, include income management policies, jail terms for alcohol possession, as well as a controversial program that cuts parents' welfare payments if their children do not attend school.

"It this was happening in any other part of Australia, if it was happening in St Kilda, if it was happening in Mosman there would be riots on the streets," Ms Mallinson said.

Amnesty International has also condemned the government for trying to outsource its human rights responsibilities with the failed Malaysia deal, which would have seen asylum seekers sent to the Asian country for processing.

Amnesty International national refuge coordinator Dr Graham Thom labelled the proposed solution a "direct breech of our international obligations," saying Australia is behind many other countries who process asylum seekers onshore.

The deal was halted by a High Court decision that ruled refuge rights could not be guaranteed in Malaysia.

However, the group welcomed federal, state and territory governments' endorsement in February last year of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

The State of the World's Human Rights report examined human rights conditions in 155 countries over the year 2011.

UN council unfit for purpose: Amnesty

AAP SBS News 24 May 2012

The UN Security Council has failed to match the courage shown by protesters around the world, Amnesty International says in its annual report.

The UN Security Council has failed to match the courage shown by protesters around the world and is increasingly "unfit for purpose," Amnesty International said in its annual report Thursday.

The rights group called for the signing of a strong treaty on the global arms trade when the United Nations meets on the issue in July, saying it would be an acid test for world leaders to place rights over profits.

Amnesty highlighted the failure to end the bloodshed in Syria and said repeated vetoes by major arms exporters Russia and China had left the UN's top security body "looking redundant as a guardian of global peace".

The report also singled out emerging powers India, Brazil and South Africa, saying they were "complicit through their silence" on key rights issues.

"You've had people standing up, putting their lives on the line," Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty told AFP.

"Unfortunately that has been met by a complete failed leadership both at the national and global level."

Shetty said in the 21st century the UN Security Council was "simply not fit for purpose. If they do not change the way in which they behave, I think there are going to be increasing questions about the relevance of the body."

In its 50th annual report, Amnesty said the vocal support by many global powers in the early months of the Arab Spring in 2011 had not translated into action, with many international leaders now looking the other way.

In Syria the group said there was a "clear and compelling case" for alleged crimes against humanity by Bashar Al-Assad's regime to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"The determination of some UN Security Council members to shield Syria at any cost leaves accountability for these crimes elusive and is a betrayal of the Syrian people," said Shetty.

Russia and China have vetoed two Council resolutions which condemned Assad, and they fiercely oppose UN sanctions.

"Two countries that are among the top six arms dealers in the world, who are permanent members of the Security Council, may have been voting much more with their pocket in mind," said Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty.

Amnesty said it was the conference on a global treaty limiting the arms trade in July that would really show whether UN member states were willing to take on serious challenges.

The conference is set for July 2-27 in New York. It follows an agreement in 2009 by most of the world's major weapons exporters, including the United States, to seek a treaty that strengthens controls on the trade.

"The UN meeting to agree an Arms Trade Treaty in July will be an acid test for politicians to place rights over self-interest and profit," the Amnesty report said.

"Without a strong treaty, the UN Security Council's guardianship of global peace and security seems doomed to failure; its permanent members wielding an absolute veto on any resolution despite being the world's largest arms suppliers."